A photograph of the performer Barbette, 1923.
Barbette (December 19, 1898 – August 5, 1973) was an American female impersonator, high-wire performer, and trapeze artist born in Texas on December 19, 1899. Barbette attained great popularity throughout the United States but his greatest fame came in Europe and especially Paris, in the 1920s and 1930s.
Barbette began performing as an aerialist at around the age of 14 as one-half of a circus act called The Alfaretta Sisters. After a few years of circus work, Barbette went solo and adopted his exotic-sounding pseudonym. He performed in full drag, revealing himself as male only at the end of his act.
Following a career-ending illness or injury (the sources disagree on the cause), which left him in constant pain, Barbette returned to Texas but continued to work as a consultant for motion pictures as well as training and choreographing aerial acts for a number of circuses. After years of dealing with chronic pain, Barbette committed suicide on August 5, 1973. Both in life and following his death, Barbette served as an inspiration to a number of artists, including Jean Cocteau and Man Ray. [Wikipedia]